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International Tourists Who Travel to Spain for Studies: Where They Go, Where They Come from and When They Travel

International tourists who travel to Spain for studies: where they go, where they come from and when they travel

  • The average spending per trip for this sort of tourist is more than four times the general rate, due to an average stay of almost 50 days.
  • Catalonia, Andalusia and the Region of Valencia are the regions that receive the most "student tourists": approximately one out of every five arriving in Spain.

Study abroad trips are those with the longest average duration, with 49 days in 2022 and progressively increasing at a rapid rate in recent years. This duration means that the spending of these student tourists accounts for just over 2% of the total that comes from international visitors to Spain, despite the fact that they account for only around 1% of the number of travellers.

Trend spending and average duration 2022

What are the main destinations for student tourists?

Catalonia, Andalusia, Valencia and Madrid are the four regions that exceeded 100,000 international student tourists in 2022, and the first three of those regions have already reached that amount during the first half of 2023. In fact, the number of these tourists in the first 6 months of 2023 is almost double that of the beginning of 2022.

Distribution of international tourists versus international student tourists – 2022

Castile and Leon was the region where student tourists accounted for the highest percentage of its international visitors in 2022, making up over 7%. Castile and Leon hosted 12% of inbound student tourists despite being the destination of less than 1.5% of inbound visitors to Spain. In the first half of 2023, the number of student tourists in the region dropped more than 50%.

Other regions where student tourism significantly expanded as a destination within Spain in 2022 (more than 6%) were Madrid, Andalusia and Valencia. Meanwhile, the two archipelagos suffer the opposite effect, despite being major tourist destinations – they host barely 1% of student tourists.  These trends actually repeat (and even increase) during the first half of 2023.

Where do student tourists come from?

In 2022, France was the main country of origin of student tourists to Spain, accounting for almost one in five of those who visited. Italy, Germany, Portugal and the United States each accounted for around 10% of student travellers.

During the first half of 2023, France has maintained its leadership with very similar percentages of student tourist arrivals. Italy and the United States have slightly improved their share, while Germany's levels have dropped, although not as much as student tourists from Portugal, who accounted for just over 1%.

Top countries of origin of international student tourists – 2022

2022 data for the regions with the highest number of student travellers show significant differences. France leads only in Catalonia and Andalusia. In the Region of Valencia, the top country of origin is Italy (although France has similar figures). Meanwhile, in the Region of Madrid, the American continent stands out as the main origin: the United States and the rest of the continent combined each account for 20% of the region's student tourists.

Italy and Germany stand out more in the coastal regions. The United States accounts for about 10% in Andalusia, in addition to the Region of Madrid. Meanwhile, Portugal, despite its strong national representation, is hardly a significant origin in any region, as around 90% chose Castile and Leon as a destination. Indeed, they represent more than 70% of the student tourists in the region.

When do international student tourists travel to Spain?

The most common international tourism season in Spain and that of student tourists only overlap in the month of July.

October and December, in addition to the period between May and July, are the months with the highest concentration of international student tourists in Spain according to the data for 2021, 2022 and 2023. August and January are the months with the least number of these tourists arriving to Spain. Hence, the greatest difference between the main international tourism season in Spain and that of student tourists occurs in the months of August and December.

Distribution of international student tourists in 2022

Analysing the distribution of student tourists in the five regions that they visited the most in 2022, it becomes evident that Catalonia stands out during the spring months, Andalusia in December and Castile and Leon has its best month in August (despite the fact that it is the month with the least number of student tourists arriving to Spain).

Regarding the average stays of student visitors, the months of June, July and, most notably, December stand out as the months with the greatest number of stays of more than two weeks. In the case of December, more than 60% of the student visitors stay for more than two weeks. Trips lasting between 4 and 7 days are most popular in September, October and November, accounting for approximately half of all stays. The high concentration of short stays in Castile and Leon is striking. The region hosts more than 80% of student visitors who stay only one night.

Student visitor stays in 2022

The number of international student tourists arriving in Spain has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic figures, although arrivals in 2023 are closer to the number recorded prior to 2020 and significantly better than in 2022. However, in terms of spending, the total of these tourists in 2022 already exceeded the 2021 figures by 10%. This figure is significant because overall international tourism spending last year remains somewhat lower than in 2019.

Travel for personal reasons accounted for more than 90 % of total resident trips in 2022

Where do international student tourists stay?

In general, student tourists opted less for hotel accommodation than is usual for international tourists. Only half did so, while one in four chose other market options (e.g. tourist apartments or rented accommodation) and a similar proportion stayed in an out-of-market option (stays for which no monetary transactions are made, such as in their own homes or those of family or friends).

Accommodation of choice for international tourists in 2022

The Region of Valencia is the most notorious case of change in the type of accommodation for student tourists among the top tourist-receiving regions. Hotels are now the second choice, up to 12% below out-of-market options. Meanwhile, in Andalusia, accommodation is almost evenly split between the three options, despite the fact that 60% of international tourists generally choose hotels.

Accommodation of choice for international tourists in 2022

Spanish residents' travel for studies or training

Spaniards seem to travel little for study and training, with only around 0.6% of their trips being motivated mainly by education. The months of April, May and June stand out as the ones with the most trips by residents for studies or training.

In 2022, only in the Region of Madrid, in the Region of Murcia and in La Rioja, this type of resident travel accounted for around 2% of the total. In the first quarter of 2023, only Castile – La Mancha and the Region of Madrid had such figures.

"Education and training" was the fourth most important motivation among the personal reasons for residents' travel, ahead of shopping tourism and religious reasons or pilgrimages. Compared with trips for professional reasons, these figures are similar to those of trips for conferences, fairs and conventions.

Travel for personal reasons accounted for more than 90 % of total resident trips in 2022

NOTE: data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) used: tourist movements at the border (FRONTUR), tourist expenditure survey (EGATUR) and resident tourist survey (ETR).

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